Category Archives: motivation

About ‘No Excuses’

In the last post on this august high-quality Internet product, I included a graphic that said ‘No Excuses.’

Why, there it is right there! Memes about excuses have been controversial lately. Maria Kang, pictured below with her three kids and her abs, was briefly disciplined by Facebook for her offensive meme.

All this having been said, I’m finding no excuses to be a useful life strategy. There are a million reasons why I can’t do something. No sane person gets up at 4:30 in the morning to exercise. Plus, you’re woefully out of shape and this program is extreme. That’s what the X stands for, dummy. And you’ve never been good at any of this stuff and you’re middle-aged. The page has turned, dude. Accept it.

It would have been easy to do that.

When I signed up for Tough Mudder, I’d never run more than six miles before. The Tough Mudder course that year was thirteen miles long. My group wound up walking most of it, but that wasn’t because of me. I made damn sure of that.

It would’ve been easier to say I hurt my leg and then make my own pace.

I’m currently in the best shape of my life. If I owned a flux capacitor, I’d go back in time and kick my 20-year-old self’s ass, just because I can. I’m glad I didn’t make those excuses for myself.

You’re damn lucky this is fiction, 20-year-old Chris.

But I also let myself off the hook too often and too easily. I haven’t written much of anything yet this year and it’s mid-February. I still go straight for the sugar when I’m stressed (one of the primary reasons I struggle with pull-ups, I think). I still make too many excuses in too many areas of my life.

(An aside–there’s a difference between excuses and reasons. I haven’t jumped from a plane yet because I still have a dependent child. I have refrained from working out because I’ve been sick or injured. These are not excuses. They’re reasons, and valid ones. Not working out because it’s too early and I don’t really want to get up, for me, is an excuse.)

It’s coming and it’s going to be glorious.

I only get to do this life thing once. I can lay on my death bed and let my last thoughts be dominated by regrets. Or I can push aside the excuses and take a shot at everything. There’s nothing wrong with doing your best and coming up short (note that I didn’t say failing). There’s a lot wrong with not trying because it’s stupid or too hard or you aren’t good enough.

Those are excuses and they do you no favors.

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Awww, crap. Now I’m scared.

I’ve got a nice little fitness routine. Pop in the DVD, do some work. Start running at some point. Complain about running in the heat. Do Tough Mudder. Later. Rinse. Repeat. I don’t master everything there is, but I am a master of this routine. I know what to expect and when to expect it.

Enter my friend Cathy.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m doing this Go Ruck thing where you haul around a ruck sack full of bricks all night long and I need someone to come with me. I’ll pay.”

They don’t even give you a free beer at the end of this thing.

Dammit.

I have no excuse. I can’t plead poverty. I’m supposed to be into these types of things. So, I expect that the first Friday in April, I’ll be hauling a ruck sack full of bricks around all night, having some guy yell at me while I do God-knows-what.

Nobody better bring a jelly donut to this thing.

This morning’s workout was P90X3 Eccentric Upper–pull-ups, push ups, curls, and the like. And with this event in the future, I paid more attention than usual to form. I worked harder. I tried not to sneak in a break where I normally sneak one in.

Hey, I caught you taking a mid-set break. We’re only doing ten plyometric pushups. What the hell?

So that’s good.

But P90X3 is half an hour. Even when I run long, that’s no more than two and a half hours. It’s not ten-twelve hours. The thing that scares me about this event isn’t the physical part. I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve worked hard before. I’ve been sore and wet and miserable before.

I haven’t done it for half a calendar day. Even in my first Tough Mudder, there was never a doubt that I would make it. Now, I doubt.

Now, my workouts aren’t just about the physical. After all, the hardest muscle to change is the one between your ears. It’s not about just working hard now. This Go Ruck event is about how much you really want it. And really wanting it–going all out to make a goal–that’s never been a particular strength.

That’s why I’m scared. And that’s why my workout was different this morning.

Certainty can be good. I think it will be in this case.


Putting teamwork ahead of a course time

I wish I had a picture of it.

One of the last obstacles in the Warrior Dash mud event is a cargo net over a slack line (a long seat belt strung between too points that you walk on). In the middle, the seat belt sags and if you aren’t tall, you can’t reach the cargo net. If you fall, there’s water, but you don’t want to fall. It’s kind of a badge of honor.

When I got to this obstacle, there was a short woman who got to the middle and couldn’t reach. She was basically stuck. My slack line wasn’t far from hers, but I could encourage her all day–she wasn’t going to reach the cargo net. And with other people on the slack line, she was going to fall even if her core was harder than diamonds.

So I held out my arm.

At first, she didn’t understand.

“Grab my arm.”

More confusion.

“You can’t reach the net, but you can reach my arm. We’ll do it together.”

And her face lit up. And we did it together and she got across.

And she was pumped!

It took me a long time to understand this, but anyone can make it across the finish line alone. It’s easier to do it that way. You only have to look after yourself and what you can control. And then you get there and it’s time for the next thing.

That woman’s smile at getting across was one of the highlights of the event for me. Both of us felt great about it. I never saw her before that obstacle and I’ll never see her again, but we shared a moment. She accomplished something and I helped her do it.

The Tough Mudder pledge says that Tough Mudder isn’t a race, but a challenge. It says I put teamwork and camaraderie above my course time. It says I help my fellow mudders complete the course. I love that pledge. It’s one of the primary reasons I’ve done four Tough Mudders, with a fifth one this November.

To quote the great Al Capone (as played by Robert DeNiro), “A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team.” (Of course, Capone proceeded to beat one of his “teammates to death with a baseball bat, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The point is, if I work on something with someone else and it’s hard, and if we help each other through–that’s something I can take to the grave. I achieved individually, but I also made a difference to the people on my team. Trite as this point may sound, that’s what it’s all about.


Running to the fight

In the finale of LOST, there’s the climactic scene where Jack and Locke (the smoke monster Locke, not the dead Locke*) fight on a cliff. (* — It makes sense if you watched the show. Well, it probably makes sense. Maybe.)

If you watched the show, you know that Jack’s trek to that fight began because he was flying his father’s body back from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles when some guy forgot to push a button and the plane crashed. He didn’t ask to be in a plane crash. Because of a series of events–some of which Jack influenced and many he didn’t–he wound up fighting an evil entity to the death.

I like the beginning of the fight. Jack has the high ground and calls Locke to start the fight. Then he runs, sprints, toward him to engage in what has to be done.

Usually in fights like that, there’s some circling and reluctance, but not this one. Jack knows that fighting this guy will suck. It will probably be costly (it was; Jack eventually died from it). But it had to be done and he sprinted toward it.

It reminds me of a circumstance a relative went through. She got a concussion and missed a ton of class, but she also missed the deadline for dropping the class. She wound up teaching herself a lot of the content of the class and getting a good grade, anyway.

We can discuss whether the school should have been more pro-active in helping her deal with it, but that’s really beyond the scope of this discussion. The circumstance sucked. It was probably unfair, but it was what it was. And she did what she needed to do to succeed.

That’s an amazing example. She could have stopped at the (righteous) argument that she was done wrong, but that wouldn’t fix the problem. So she did a hard thing and succeeded anyway. I hope her actions in this regard will stick with her longer than the series of missteps that caused the situation in the first place.

Look, this isn’t an absolution of people who wrong others. We can’t exist without justice. If there are issues, they need to be addressed. But in the meantime, sometimes you have to make your own justice and overcome the crap that happens to you, even if it isn’t fair.

It’s wrong and it’s terrible, but it’s also life and we only get one of those.

I want people around me who run to the fight when it’s inevitable. I want to be the guy who runs to the fight when it’s inevitable. Too often, I’m not.

Running to the fight gives you a chance to win. Letting the fight happen to you means you’ll always lose.

 


In defense of ugly…

This morning’s run could have been uglier. I could’ve skipped the shorts over the compression pants I wear when it’s cold out.

For the record, I ran five miles, after running three yesterday, after spending most of the last two and a half weeks being sick, mostly with the flu. I only graduated back to the standing desk the day before yesterday.

Performing ugly is the norm in life. There are people who make it look easy, the Michael Jordans or Ozzie Smiths of the world. Most of us aren’t those guys.

 

Most of us are guys like Kurt Rambis (pictured below). Kurt’s game was every bit as attractive as he was, but he worked hard and was a member of four championship teams with the Lakers in the 1980s.

Here are seven tips to remember when you’re performing ugly:

  1. Most of the time, you’re ugly because you’re stretching yourself. In this morning’s run, the wheels started to come off after about two miles. I could have quit there and saved myself some ugliness, but then I’d have only gone two miles. Five miles is better. Any time you push yourself outside your comfort zone, it gets ugly. And that’s in fitness, work, even personal relationships. Sure, you could be perfect and beautiful, but five miles is better than two.
  2. Understand there’s risk and do it anyway. My goal was five miles this morning. I didn’t know if I could do it, but that was the goal. If I hadn’t done it, I’d have been angry at myself and dejected. It’s only a run, so it’s not a big deal, but the same thing happens with bigger stakes. You might fail. But you might succeed, too. Don’t let the possibility of failure eliminate the possibility of success. In the words of the great philosopher Pink, “Just because it burns doesn’t mean your gonna die. You gotta get up and try, try, try.”
  3. Be kind to yourself. During the second half of my run, after the wheels started to wobble, I talked to myself. I didn’t curse myself for not covering the five miles the way I could before. I coached myself. “Come on. You can do it. You just have to get up this hill and down. That’s all you have to do.”
  4. Accept that it’s ugly. I’m running in Florida so there are no mountains, just rises and an overpass that’s the closest thing to a hill. One of the rises seemed a little bigger than morning it normally does. And my legs were protesting already. So I said, “It’s okay. All you have to do is get up this hill and down the other side.” Of course, I said this, just as another runner passed me. I sounded foolish. And that’s okay.
  5. Compare yourself to what you can do, not what other people can do or to what you think you should do. Two months ago, I ran 11 miles at Tough Mudder. Three weeks before that, I ran 17 miles. This morning 5 miles was a major accomplishment. And that’s okay. It’s about what I can do today, not what I did three months ago. Not what the guy who blew by me can do. I’m coming off the flu and some time when I didn’t run because I was doing P90X3. This morning, five miles was an accomplishment.
  6. Understand that when you’re done, it’s going to hurt. So it’s Sunday morning, which means church. And every time I torture my legs, there’s something at church where you have to stand up and move around. Like clockwork. It will happen this morning, and my legs will hurt. That’s how it goes. Moving around at church after a run is minor, but it’s the same with bigger stakes. If you lay yourself out on a big project at work, when you’re done, you’ll be tapped out. You’ll be flat and you won’t want to dig deep again right away. Understand that and accept it. When it happens, you won’t kick yourself about it.
  7. Celebrate your success. I’m just a few days removed from taking a nap in the afternoon because it’s the only way I could get through. I haven’t done a workout in almost three weeks and I haven’t run in close to six weeks. And this morning, even though it was ugly and I sounded silly, I ran five miles. In the cold. While most people are sleeping. It would’ve been easier and safer to stay in bed or to only go two or three miles. I went five. How awesome is that?


My one New Year’s Resolution

Since late October, I’ve been sick five times. Five. Times.

feeTinesAMady

Not just feeling a little crappy, but legitimately sick.

I got sick the Saturday before Christmas, then got mostly better, went on a cruise, got back, was home a day, and then boom, sick again, then two days later–the flu.

I’m in the best shape of my life. I have things to do. I need to work out. Getting sick–especially this often…it’s just not acceptable. To reach back to song lyrics from a time–before I can remember…yeah, that’s right, before I can remember–I haven’t got time for the pain.

Seriously, my daughter was home and I spent most of the time in the other room on my back. That sucks. And now I’m getting better just in time for what? Not vacation! Work. In time for catch up from the work I missed.

It’s horrible. Horrible, I tell you.

Horrible.

Well, except over the last month or so, I found out that a guy a grade ahead of me from high school died. I didn’t know him well and I don’t know if he was sick or anything, but judging from the way people reacted on Facebook, his passing left a massive void in their hearts and their lives.

My sister’s in law’s family lost a person this year. Totally out of the blue. A guy whose shadow was huge and whose memorial service required overflow parking to the overflow parking.

And then there’s another person I know who started 2014 healthy and moving forward with no problems, and started 2015 with a transformed body and life from battling brain cancer.

So I got sick. I got the flu. So what?

I haven’t worked out in a week and probably won’t work out for a week or so more just so I’m ready.

And work’s gonna be a little much because I’m behind a little. It’s gonna be a struggle for a while, more than the struggle I was expecting on getting back from vacation.

Again, so what?

I had people checking on me and offering to do things to help me feel better. I went to a clinic five minutes from my house and was examined, diagnosed, and had medicine within half an hour. I got to take two days of sick leave with no problem and with no threat to my livelihood. And I have people at work who helped cover for me while I was out, and whose biggest concern about me will be that I’m okay and ready to work again.

I got time off–a lot of time off. I went on a cruise. I bought a bamboo shirt that makes me wish I were a middle-aged woman so I can see how good I look in the shirt and be impressed by myself. (I look mahvelous, dahlings.) I get to work out again in a few days and run another mud event at the end of the month.

In my bamboo shirt, I look better than this guy in these old rags.

So yeah, all that crap at the top of the post is true. And it’s immaterial.

It’s good to start a new year with the understanding of how incredibly blessed I am, and how massively incredibly lucky I am to have the people I have around me.

I do a really crappy job sometimes recognizing these things.

So while I have the typical aspirations–kick butt at work, eat better, work out more, do more writing, finally get an RPLA award, all that–that’s all they are.

My New Year’s resolution is much more important–to live each of the 355 days left this year as the valuable, finite blessings they are, regardless of what they bring. You have my full permission to just kick my ass if I forget.


The power of your example

One of my co-workers went through a pretty lengthy phase where she showed amazing (in my view) discipline in her food selections. I was in awe. I told her she was food hero and I needed to be more like her.

She didn’t think what she did was a big deal.

This morning, I posted my workout on Facebook. P90X3, Total Synergistics. It was hard (especially after yesterday), but it’s what I do. I get up, pop in the DVD, and do the workout. Same as almost every other day. No biggie.

One of my Facebook friends posted that my post was inspiring.  To be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that.

My mental response is always something like it’s really no big deal. I just work out. I post the workouts to keep myself honest, as a tool to keep me going. I didn’t even realize anyone even cared until people started saying I inspired them.

Apparently, it’s a big deal and it (maybe) motivates people, the way my co-worker has motivated me to eat better.

So if my co-worker’s food choices inspire me and if the fact that I work out once a day inspires you, then what are you doing that might inspire other people? Whatever it is, keep at it.